Friday, February 23, 2018

Writing With Structure


By  Jane Kirkpatrick, Author of All She Left Behind


My first editor, Rod Morris, suggested I read a book called Structuring Your Novel by Meredith and Fitzgerald.


It was great advice! Those authors suggested an organizing practice that I’ve kept for my thirty novels since.


I answer three questions:


1)      What is my intention or what is this story about?

2)       What is my attitude about this story or what do I feel deeply about?

3)       What is my purpose or how do I hope a reader might be changed by reading this book?

I might write a dozen pages answering each one but I try to get it down to one sentence for each question. I post those on my computer so when I feel lost or wonder why I ever thought I could write this story, I can look there and see just what I need to do. It reduces my panic and helps me sort out whether I really need to know what colors Crayola had in 1910! I can get side-tracked easily.

This practice keeps me focused which is what every writer needs to do to keep them writing toward “the end.”  
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Jane Kirkpatrick is the New York Times and CBA bestselling author of more than thirty books, including All She Left Behind, A Light in the Wilderness, The Memory Weaver, This Road We Traveled, and A Sweetness to the Soul, which won the prestigious Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Center. Her works have been finalists for the Christy Award, Spur Award, Oregon Book Award, and Reader’s Choice awards, and have won the WILLA Literary Award, USA Best Books, the Carol Award for Historical Fiction, and the 2016 Will Rogers Medallion Award. Jane lives in Central Oregon with her husband, Jerry. Learn more at www.jkbooks.com.




Thursday, February 22, 2018

Doubt, No Doubt then Success from A Writers Group


By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine


Writers Groups are available to most everyone these days. If you find a good one you enjoy it is worth a drive to get there. We have a great one and over the years it has developed into a close knit group of writers from various backgrounds. All are supportive of one another and all share their love of writing. 

At each meeting we have an exercise where three words are thrown out and we are to take these three words and use them in a paragraph. We have a limited time to do so and once time is called we take turns reading them to the group. It is always surprising to the different directions taken with these three words. It is also surprising to see the doubt on the faces of some of the writers as they read their works. 

Over time I have noticed how their self-doubt turns to self-confidence and from there success. I think there are several reasons for this. Each of us will go through a period of getting to know the group. We ask ourselves, “How out of step am I with all this?” How out of step with this new world I find myself in. Do I fit? It takes time to tell but once we feel comfortable with the group we know what to expect from each personality. They know what to expect from us. We soon realize we do fit.

Once we feel comfortable and realize we fit we then have to ask ourselves “Does the sound of my voice carry?” Do they understand what I am sharing with them? Is it clear, precise and interesting? Honestly it may not always be but we all learn from this and we learn if indeed our voices carry. 
What better place to learn than among your fellow writers.  


The singer songwriter Michael McDonald said “I don’t know that we ever overcome doubt. We have to remember “Doubt” is a poodle in the bushes and not a grizzly bear.” Once we understand and overcome that, we are ready for success. I find it amazing that this simple exercise we repeat at each meeting is a small representation of what each writer goes through with each piece they write.  Do I fit in this world of writing? Will they hear my voice?  Will the confidence come? I can say after each meeting and each exercise there is confidence. It grows with the support of our fellow writers. 

There is a lot to be said for a good writers group. I hope you can find one like ours.   

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Editing, a Key Ingredient for Publishing Success


By  Elizabeth M. Garrett


Months ago, I stood before a Christian writers group and read a devotional I’d written. I felt sure I had polished it to perfection. Before I had even begun to delve into the “meaty” part, I noticed an error. Ouch! I had included a scripture and had just read over a typo.

As authors, being familiar with what we’ve written can be a great detriment when producing a final product.

Have you ever written a manuscript, polished it, and felt it was ready for print, when you realize you gave a secondary character two different names? Or, maybe you spelled a proper noun three different ways. When you reviewed it, you knew what it was supposed to say, so you just read right over it.

Most writers I know feel a true calling to write and publish. While many have a real gift for the writing craft, they’re still not perfect. Although the product might have a compelling story line or provide helpful information, the writing quality plays a large role in whether or not a reader stays engaged until the end. A good editor can make the difference.

Published works often take weeks, months, maybe even years to develop into a final piece. Producing a book with quite a few errors or weak writing would be a shame after putting so much time and energy into something. I’ve also known writers to spend lots of money for editing, only to have it re-edited due to so many errors.

When searching for an editor, I encourage you to request a free sample edit and review credentials and references. Also, I suggest you interview people to see who would be a good fit.  Receiving constructive criticism of any kind isn’t easy, much less when it pertains to a project saturated in your blood, sweat, and tears.

Following are five things I recommend you look for in an editor:
1)      Someone who will suggest revisions, but will maintain your writing style.
2)      When suggesting a change, he or she will provide reasons.
3)      Someone who will challenge you in your writing and help you become a better writer.
4)      Someone whose goal is to strengthen and polish your work, not rewrite it.
5)      An encouraging person with candor, tact, and integrity.

In today’s crowded publishing marketplace, a quality product will go a long way in setting your manuscript apart. Having a good editor with whom you have a great working relationship can play a vital role in your publishing success.
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Elizabeth M. Garrett serves as editor and sole proprietor of Polish Point Editing, a web-based business founded in 2016. With thirty years of professional editing and public relations experience, she recently wrote and produced a webinar, “Masterclass in Public Relations for Authors” available through booksgosocial.com. Her creative works, both fiction and non-fiction, have been published in three collections, with another one on the way. Social Media Links: http://booksgosocialtraining.thinkific.com/courses/public-relations-for-authors?ref=4af275


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Oscars: Who Wrote This Year's Best Picture?


by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine


Every year as the Academy Awards near, it's interesting to look at the origins of those movies nominated for Best Picture. Obviously, the screenwriters did something right, and sometimes their job was made easier by a good book that preceded it. So how did this year's nominees stack up?

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
This drama about an unsolved murder, expected to do very well on Oscar night, was an original screenplay written by its director Martin McDonagh, He came up with the idea after seeing similar billboards about a crime "somewhere down in the Georgia, Florida, Alabama corner".

LADY BIRD
Another film written by its director (Greta Gerwig), this light drama focuses on the stormy relationship between a high school senior and her well-meaning but demanding mother. Gerwig admits that although it's fiction from start to finish, its inspiration comes from her own experience.

THE SHAPE OF WATER
This drama involving a mute spinster and the man-like amphibian she bonds with was also written by its director (Guillermo del Toro). It has its origins in del Toro's childhood viewing of Creature from the Black Lagoon. He had pondered what would happen if, instead of abducting a girl, the creature became friendly with her.

PHANTOM THREAD
Yet another screenplay written by its director (Paul Thomas Anderson, whose There Will Be Blood, also starring Daniel Day-Lewis, was a 2007 Best Picture nominee), Anderson loosely based this 1950s story about a quirky but revered dressmaker on late fashion designer Charles James, labeled "America's First Couturier".

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
Here's one that actually began as a novel by André Aciman, published in 2007. This drama centers around a teenage boy and the male graduate student he begins a summer romance with. Not for the kids.

GET OUT
TV comedian Jordan Peele (Key & Peele) wrote and directed this horror movie about a black man who encounters strange circumstances when he meets the family of his white girlfriend. Peele says comedy and horror have much in common and that the story was vaguely inspired by the classic satirical film The Stepford Wives.

DARKEST HOUR
Written by Anthony McCarten, who previously wrote The Theory of Everything (about the life of Stephen Hawking), Darkest Hour focuses on another famous figure, Winston Churchill. Through drama and humor it chronicles Churchill's first days in office against the backdrop of WWII.

DUNKIRK
Speaking of war, Dunkirk tells another tale from troubled 1940s Europe. Director Christopher Nolan was inspired to write the film after he and his future wife sailed across the English Channel and followed the path of boats in the Dunkirk evacuation. Nolan's 76-page screenplay was half the length of a typical script, as he chose to focus on visuals and music to tell the story rather than rely on dialogue.

THE POST
Still speaking of war, this historical political drama depicts the Washington Post's pursuit to publish classified documents about America's involvement in Vietnam.  It was co-written by first-timer Liz Hannah and by Josh Singer, who also wrote the 2015 fact-based nominee Spotlight.

So, there you go. Three films were based on actual events, while most of the rest were inspired by something based on real life or by reimagining an existing story. As you cheer on your favorites on Sunday, March 4th, let it serve as a reminder that truth is stranger than fiction and is always a ready source of writing inspiration worth its weight in gold.



Monday, February 19, 2018

CLIFFHANGERS, Part Two


By Marni Graff             


In continuing our talk on cliffhangers, let’s turn to Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell, who calls cliffhangers “read on prompts.” He mentions nine different ways all of the above information can be utilized. I’ve adapted these and made minor changes but they reflect his system and clarify how to use this device by naming the categories.

Impending disaster: Centers on an event the character(s) can’t ignore. A classic example is the detective knocking on the door. Maybe a river is flooding and everyone is in danger. But this should always precede a very dramatic part of your story. It’s a demand for action, or even an accident, some kind of happening that requires a response.

Dangerous emotions: A favorite of romance writers, this is the kiss or the almost-kiss; or maybe even the slap in the face! It heightens the emotional tension. Variations in other genres could be a mistaken identity revealed, or a gift that’s refused. Use it to communicate conflicting emotions when characters are attracted to each other and not acknowledging it.

Portent: I call this foreshadowing. Directly implies forthcoming or future action and conflict and is a hint to readers that something important is about to happen. A big plot change is coming, or characters are at a crossroads. Works great for building suspense at any stage of a book. I even used this on the cover of The Golden Hour, with its cozy, domestic scene of a roaring fireplace with a sleeping dog in front. Astute readers notice the discarded child’s toy in the corner . . .

Mysterious Dialogue: These are lines that let the reader know a character knows something is wrong. It can be a question between two or more characters, and may focus on the Who, What, Where, When and Why questions. “Why are you here?” she asked the police officer.

Secret revealed: This is a plot point given as a clue. Later in the work it will be useful to provide a supposed lead or shown to be innocuous; earlier on it is used to move the story forward.

Major decision or vow: Usually an internal commitment for action on the part of a main character. “I will avenge my sister’s death.” You can use this for the antagonist vowing to create mayhem or take revenge, too.

Announcement: of any kind, can be shattering event, an accusation, or even a statement of fact. “I hated him.” It can drive the story forward to a new short or long-term goal or plot complication. OR it can the reverse and work as a plot reversal or setback.

Reversal/surprise: A true reversal, when something appears to be headed one way and turned suddenly so there is a shift in the reader’s perspective. Maybe the supposed good guy kicks a dog, which reveal character and changes how he’s viewed. Or it can be a situation the reader expected to happen, and it doesn’t. Can even be a tranquil event that turns deadly.

Question left unanswered: This can be a true mystery or a missing object. Think of the old trunk in the attic the protagonist stumbles over and its contents raise questions. Or a character finds an old letter that gives information but not enough. This is good for increasing suspense and revealing a major clue. You can use it for a mid-book complication, or even to start the final climax.

I hope these examples will show how you can use cliffhangers to keep readers flipping the pages of your work. After all, that’s what we really want, isn’t it?
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Marni Graff is the Award-winning author of The Nora Tierney English Mysteries, and The Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries. The Nora Tierney English Mysteries feature American Nora living in England. THE BLUE VIRGIN received First Prize in the Mystery and Mayhem Award for Best British Cozy from Chanticleer Review and is set in Oxford. THE GREEN REMAINS takes Nora to the Lake District and murder follows and won the same award for Best British Cozy. THE SCARLET WENCH , shortlisted for the same award, finds Nora involved in finding the murderer from a visiting theatre troupe living amongst her and her son at the lodge where she’s staying. A copy of SW is in the archives of the estate of Noel Coward, as all of the chapter epigrams are lines from his farce, “Blithe Spirit” which figures in the action. The fourth, THE GOLDEN HOUR, debut July 2017. The entire series has also been narrated for Audible books by British actress Nano Nagle.The first Trudy Genova Manhattan Mystery, Death Unscripted, is based on Graff’s real-life work as a medical consultant for a New York movie studio. Trudy has that job, too, but in her case, murder follows. This is the book P. D. James insisted Graff write and is dedicated to her. This book was named a finalist for the IAN Awards and is shortlisted as Best Mystery from Chanticleer Media. In progress is Book 2 in that series, DEATH OF AN HEIRESS. Graff is Managing Editor of Bridle Path Press, an author’s cooperative based out of Baltimore, MD, and writes this crime review blog, Auntie M Writes. Also known as Auntie M, MK and Marnette, Marni grew up in Floral Park, NY. She currently resides in rural North Carolina, and lives on the Pungo River, part of the coast’s Intracoastal Waterway. Graff is the author of screenplays, stories, essays and poetry, in addition to the two mystery series. Her creative nonfiction was most recently seen in Southern Women’s Review,  Fine Line Anthology and, and Shelf Pleasures. Her poem about Amelia Earhart in an anthology of poems dedicated to the pilot that is on display in Earhart’s hometown museum. Marni Graff @GraffMarni   www.auntiemwrites.com



Friday, February 16, 2018

CLIFFHANGERS, Part One


By Marni Graff             


Every writer looks for ways to keep readers flipping pages in their work. An original story line and wonderful prose, coupled with compelling characters and a setting that functions almost as a secondary character will be a goal for writers in any genre.

One other useful device is chapter endings that compel the reader to continue flipping pages, called cliffhangers. I’m a crime writer, where cliffhangers are the norm in my mysteries, but they can be used for any genre. Simply put, a cliffhanger is a suspenseful situation that occurs at the end of a chapter or scene and helps compel the reader to turn to the next page.

There are three main ways to implement a cliffhanger:
-          An intriguing question: which comes about through a character or an event. (Who could have killed the bride?)
-          Through dialogue: where something is revealed in conversation. (“I’m pregnant.”)
-          Using description: make the exposition short but worthy! (She turned the body and screamed when she realized it was someone she knew.)

And there is a multitude of ways to accomplish this.

Someone: takes an action; reacts to something; arrives; leaves. OR

Something: Happens on its own; in response to a characters’ action; or fails to happen; changes; fails to change.

Cliffhangers can also be a reinforcing statement that echoes the scene’s tension, or sums up the situation.  It can paint a dire picture of the situation that lies ahead.

So you see there are many ways to utilize cliffhangers. Tune in on Monday to see specific ways you can keep readers interest.
____________________________________________________________________ 
Marni Graff is the Award-winning author of The Nora Tierney English Mysteries, and The Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries. The Nora Tierney English Mysteries feature American Nora living in England. THE BLUE VIRGIN received First Prize in the Mystery and Mayhem Award for Best British Cozy from Chanticleer Review and is set in Oxford. THE GREEN REMAINS takes Nora to the Lake District and murder follows and won the same award for Best British Cozy. THE SCARLET WENCH , shortlisted for the same award, finds Nora involved in finding the murderer from a visiting theatre troupe living amongst her and her son at the lodge where she’s staying. A copy of SW is in the archives of the estate of Noel Coward, as all of the chapter epigrams are lines from his farce, “Blithe Spirit” which figures in the action. The fourth, THE GOLDEN HOUR, debut, July 2017, and finds Nora visiting Brighton, Cornwall, her beloved Oxford, with key action in Bath. The entire series has also been narrated for Audible books by British actress Nano Nagle.The first Trudy Genova Manhattan Mystery, Death Unscripted, is based on Graff’s real-life work as a medical consultant for a New York movie studio. Trudy has that job, too, but in her case, murder follows. This is the book P. D. James insisted Graff write and is dedicated to her. This book was named a finalist for the IAN Awards and is shortlisted as Best Mystery from Chanticleer Media. In progress is Book 2 in that series, DEATH OF AN HEIRESS. Graff is Managing Editor of Bridle Path Press, an author’s cooperative based out of Baltimore, MD, and writes this crime review blog, Auntie M Writes. Also known as Auntie M, MK and Marnette, Marni grew up in Floral Park, NY. She currently resides in rural North Carolina, and lives on the Pungo River, part of the coast’s Intracoastal Waterway. Graff is the author of screenplays, stories, essays and poetry, in addition to the two mystery series. Her creative nonfiction was most recently seen in Southern Women’s Review,  Fine Line Anthology and, and Shelf Pleasures. Her poem about Amelia Earhart in an anthology of poems dedicated to the pilot that is on display in Earhart’s hometown museum. Marni Graff @GraffMarni   www.auntiemwrites.com


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Musical Poetry Reflects Life’s Tapestry


By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine 


Last week on Facebook, songwriter Carole King posted, “47 years ago today...Tapestry [her breakout album] was released on February 10, 1971.” WoW! I know and love all of her songs/poetry by heart. I felt “The Earth Move.” This collection of musical poems reflected the women’s movement of the early 70’s when only a small percentage of women entering college actually graduated. Those are the poetic songs of my youth that have stayed forever in the “Tapestry” of my soul. 

Another momentous event occurred last week, 54 years ago, before my own musical youth kicked in,  THE BEATLES ON THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW aired on FEBRUARY 9, 1964. Of course, I’ve seen the historic American debut presentation of the iconic band. Their appearance influenced America then, and in the generations that followed. Who doesn’t know a Beatles tune when they hear it? Music is entwined with a poetry of words and cords. At this link, you can watch their debut appearance 

Relive or view for the first time "She Loves You", "I Saw Her Standing There" and "I Want To Hold Your Hand", with the best image quality to date and in stereo sound.”

While researching this blog post, I ran across an article in Rolling Stone Magazine that gave an interesting connection between Carole King and The Beatles.  https://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/10-songs-you-didnt-know-carole-king-wrote-w465772/chains-the-cookies-1962-the-beatles-1963-w465774
She wrote songs for The Beatles in 1963 before she broke out on her own with her hit album, “Tapestry.” Who knew?

The book, A Natural Woman: A Memoir by Douglas McGrath tells the story of the early life and career of Carole King. A musical play titled, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is currently on Broadway for those who want to follow her rise to stardom. 


Last week I learned of an opportunity perfect for songwriters and writers with the gift of prose. Honestly, I was attracted to this opportunity because of the wacky name. It’s theWergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest (no fee)
"Now in its 17th year, this contest seeks today's best humor poems. No fee to enter. Submit published or unpublished work. $2,250 in prizes. Submit by April 1, 2018. Prizes: First Prize: $1,000, Second Prize: $250, Honorable Mentions: 10 awards of $100 each and Top 12 entries published online. There is no fee to enter. Judge: Jendi Reiter, assisted by Lauren Singer. Length limit: 250 lines. No restrictions on age or country. Please click the Submittable button below for full details. The results of our 17th annual contest will be announced on August 15, 2018.”

Many famous singers and authors started out once with a poem turned song or book. In the words of Carole King, “You’ve Got to Get Up Every Morning...” and write to be a writer. Take a chance, enter a contest. Taking chances is a common thread in our life “Tapestry.” What do you have to lose?